More on McMansions

Adding some more to the topic,’s Sandy Springs Blogger Jim Osterman joins the debate, echoing my thoughts about it:

I understand their objections, but I can’t buy into them. They don’t want the character of their neighborhoods compromised and I get that. Builders truly don’t build ‘em like they used to, and that’s a shame.
There doesn’t appear to be much artistic craftsmanship going into new homes — even the seven-figure structures. Style points don’t seem to be the order of the day.
However, what bothers me about stopping such efforts is this: If a neighborhood has no existing covenants that prohibit the practice of McMansion-ing and there is no truly historic value to the home, the buyer should be able to build pretty much anything that passes existing building and zoning codes.
Coming in after the fact because a buyer’s plans don’t conform to a subjective standard is just wrong. And arrogant.
I hope my neighbor won’t paint her home Tweety-Bird yellow, but if she does I’ll just have to live with it. If I had a chance to talk her down from such a color, I’ll go for it but I wouldn’t go hysterically running to city hall demanding relief.

And one of the commenters adds this: “If the problem is that the zoning requirements are not stringent enough – then change the zoning instead of placing a moratorium on the rights of the property owner.”

14 Comments so far

  1. Cap'n Ken (unregistered) on January 30th, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

    The question comes down to: Why the moratorium, Shirley?

    Is she a maniac who just wanted to see lumber supplies pile up at Lowe’s, or is this just the most obvious symptom of some ongoing, drawn-out battle down at City Hall?

    I don’t (and really can’t, seeing how local “news” means apartment fires and dead babies) follow the goings-on of the City Council that closely, but to me this smells of a “nuclear option” strategy by the mayor – maybe there has just never been any traction made trying to address these issues through zoning laws, so Shirley felt she had to make the big, dramatic move to get the council to actually do something.

    Just a guess – but it’s not like Shirley is going to be able to shut down all housing construction in the city for good.

    P.S. Who the hell cares what a “Sandy Springs blogger” has to say about Atlanta? They opted out, remember?

  2. Nikki (unregistered) on January 30th, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

    There are worse things in the world than halting what a lot of people view as damaging in order to hash out some rules. The moratorium will end, and hopefully at that time there will be some new laws/rules/guidelines in place to address the situation.

  3. Daniel (unregistered) on January 30th, 2006 @ 3:37 pm

    Nikki – we can’t just say to legislations and actions that we oppose “Well, there are worse things in the world” and then give up on opposing it. If we did that then the only thing we would get accomplished is getting ‘America’s Top Model’ off the air. Because, really, there’s nothing worse than that.

  4. Tony Mc (unregistered) on January 30th, 2006 @ 7:20 pm

    Daniel – “Simple Life” is resurfacing on E! so there are worse things. All reality TV is as bad and the Hawks are another.

  5. Nikki (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 8:37 am

    My point, which you clearly missed, is that there are clearly people on both sides that feel strongly about this, and that stopping construction for some period of time while rules that people are willing to work under are established is not as bad as allowing builders to continue defacing neighborhoods (which is how a lot of people feel about it). Clearly there is some sort of void here w/r/t the community’s wishes v. laws/regs that are supposed to represent those interests and protect them. A moratorium during which nothing productive happens is pretty pointless, but if this time is used to hammer out the rules, then that’s fine.

  6. Daniel (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 8:42 am

    To that point, Nikki (which I admit I did miss), I would say that if we were to err “for some period of time” I would rather err on the side of property rights and freedom (within the realm of already existing statutes) than on the side of government control. If new statutes are to come into existence, then let them go in to effect when they are passed. Not before. Prior restraint strikes me as a very dangerous precedent.

  7. Nikki (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 10:29 am

    I think there’s an argument to be made that the McMansions deflate the property value of the surrounding, original houses, and that those people need to have their rights considered just as much as the builder. If the moratorium gives those people the chance to stop damage in their neighborhoods, then it’s good for those individuals. The government is supposed to serve its constituents, and the residents of VaHi and other neighborhoods who are upset qualify as people to whom the government is supposed to be responsive. We all have to live together — it would be great if we could all coexist without any conflict, but the fact is that people don’t do that. Hence this pause for figuring out the rules of the game. It’s constructive to do this.

  8. Daniel (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 10:50 am

    Any type of new building impacts the property value of the surrounding neighborhood. And that’s why the “rules of the game” allow for neighbors to challenge potential building changes at appropriate meetings. That’s why you have to file for a permit to make major structural changes (typically). These permits can and are routinely challenged by neighbors and neighbohood associations. This isn’t a pause to “figure out the rules of the game.” There are rules that are followed. This is a pause because some people don’t like the rules. To me, the answer is to change the rules. But until those rules are changed, you play by the old ones. You don’t just stop playing.

  9. Nikki (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 11:15 am

    Apparently enough people felt they were going to be negatively impacted by this continued activity that they managed to get this stuff stopped. Whose liberty is more important? The builder(s)? or the residents? How do you make that decision? Like the moratorium or not, at least right now no one can do anything, rather than escalating any tensions. I understand you’re coming at this from a libertarian POV, but as a homeowner, I can completely relate to the residents of VaHi, and as a homeowner in an overly-developed and clearly-beholden-to-developers area, I also understand how powerless people can feel in the face of constant development. These residents may have gone nuclear on this issue . . but more power to them.

  10. Daniel (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 11:29 am

    It should be reminded that it took only one person to make this happen – Mayor Franklin. It was a unilateral move made by her and I see it as difficult to characterize it as the “residents” going “nuclear.”

  11. Nikki (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

    I imagine, based on my understanding of the issue, that there was considerable pressure. The moratorium is not the first time lately we’ve had this discussion — infill housing has been disucssed as a problem in a lot of in-town and even just near-town neighborhoods.

    We’re not going to agree on this, obviously.

  12. kristina (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

    Daniel — The “property rights” you speak of are very limited. You cannot do whatever you like with your property, hence zoning laws, code enforcement, etc. which allow the government to limit your “property rights freedom.” There will be some form of an infill zoning ordinance passed in the city this year. It is certainly due to overwhelming concern on the part of homeowners who have made this clear to their city councilmembers, the mayor and the city’s planning department. The Mayor’s moratorium for the five named neighborhoods expires on FEBRUARY 6. Only if the legislation now in the City Council’s Zoning Committee passes will there be a 120 day moratorium.

  13. Andrea (unregistered) on February 1st, 2006 @ 2:59 pm

    The City Council Zoning Committee this afternoon voted against extending the moratorium on infill building.

  14. kristina (unregistered) on February 1st, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

    However, the original infill zoning ordinance which will apply to the entire city is still alive in that same committee (#06-O-0017). It has already been put in front of the NPUs and from there will go to the Zoning Review Board. After that public comment period it will get voted on by City Council in the Zoning Committee and then go on to Full Council sometime in late April or May (provided it doesn’t die in committee). So the debate will continue . . .

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